Seeing the woods and the trees

Posted: October 24, 2012 in Opinion piece
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Not being able to see the woods for the trees was always one of my favourite idioms, mainly for the visual picture it evoked, of a baffled person staggering around, pounding their fists on bark, little realising that these trees surrounding them actually encompass the area they are looking for. The symbolic meaning of the phrase is of course that a person can be too close or emotionally involved in a problem to see the potential solution.

This applies equally well to any scenario, not just a problem but a police investigation, for instance. A police officer whose sister had just died from a drug overdose would probably be incapable of deploying reasoned judgment when it came to a drug bust. A naïve drug mule could wind up being gunned down by said officer. Without any further investigation or background knowledge, some witnesses may assume the officer used his weapon to simply retaliate at some trivial verbal abuse, say. So many misunderstandings and consequences could result from senior officers not doing their homework on the context, and these could potentially be broadcast as unquestioned truth. This is one obvious example of conclusions leapt to before considering all external factors in order to give the ‘bigger picture’.

You can’t open a newspaper now without seeing the latest depraved anecdotes about Jimmy Savile. Although still just allegations, the fact that over 400 lines of enquiry are being opened, and with nothing to gain from a dead man, most now assume that Savile was a pretty despicable sexual predator. Though in some newspapers, particularly, it seems, News International titles, you would not know who was actually most guilty in the sordid business, Savile or the BBC.

Many are curious at the timing of the Savile allegations’ announcements, coming as they do when his victims can no longer see him be held accountable for his crimes. Cynics may argue that it is more than a coincidence that an incompetent Government obsessed with privatising everything not nailed down suddenly have a massive club to beat a public institution with. After all, nobody would ever not be outraged at paedophilia. The Tories have loathed the BBC ever since Margaret Thatcher first kicked off the Neoliberal rampage and crushed the Miners’ strike through brutal means. They see a combination of the two things they hate most: a public service with a left-wing slant, though recently they actually seem to have been towing the Government line a little too much for some people’s liking.

This story means a lot to the Government, who are desperate for anything to take reporting of their incompetence and cruelty off the front pages, and, as it is one of their nemeses, all the better. That is not to say there are not some tough questions for the BBC to answer: just how a man many admit openly flaunted his criminal behaviour for so long was able to stand unchallenged. But then that brings me onto my second pertinent point.

People cry foul at the nurses and journalists and executives who bore witness, but did not speak out before it became a culture. Some have argued that until the late 90s, children were not given such a voice. Adults were always assumed to be responsible, and children to be prone to lying or exaggeration. This is true of course. There was a hugely different culture in the 1970s than today with regards to men’s behaviour around children. But what about the concept of whistleblowing? What nurse or lower level employee could hope to speak out against a national icon and survive with their job intact? The myth of Savile became more important than the behaviour of Savile, and it had ballooned too much for most to risk discrediting him.

Which brings me to my final concluding point: that of this Coalition trying to force through plans which will mean some employees having to pay to go to an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal. Which means even fewer people will ever feel confident speaking out against a powerful person within their organisation, for fear of losing their livelihood in the process.

This is the woodland from above. The Tory-led Coalition demonises the BBC for political advantage, whilst ignoring the bigger picture: that their policies will create a culture even further entrenched in cowed silence. Victims of these travesties deserve better, but the Government would rather cut down all the trees in the woods than admit it is their acid rain scorching the earth.

  1. All true. However, I’d like to predict that the dragnet around Saville’s memory will start to catch people who moved on to ITN and the Murdoch media after witnessing his behaviour, as well as individuals involved in the charities he was so enthusiastic about. News International and the Tories have something to batter the BBC with, but the same weapon is likely to be turned on them in consequence.

  2. A good point. Their hubris could well come back to haunt them!

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